Both Missouri and Oklahoma State had expectations of making a BCS bowl at some point this season. Unfortunately, the two teams faltered and landed just outside of the BCS picture.
Luckily for college football fans, they ended up taking on one another in what is sure to be a great Cotton Bowl between two old rivals on Friday night (7:30 ET, Fox).
The two schools met 51 times when Missouri was still a member of the Big 12. Needless to say, they have a history that will be rekindled on Friday night.
With playmakers on both sides of the ball for the two teams, here are the X-factors that will be the difference in the Cotton Bowl.
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
One of the most physically imposing defensive linemen in the country, Michael Sam has been a catalyst for the Missouri defense all season. With 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss on the season, Sam is a player to watch any time he touches the field.
The one thing that Sam is well aware of is the success that his defense, as a whole, has enjoyed this season. He actually gave Oklahoma State a bit of a warning ahead of their showdown on Friday, according to a tweet by David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune:
Michael Sam, on planning for MU's defensive line: "If they focus just on Michael Sam, I fear for Oklahoma State's offense."— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) January 1, 2014
The senior linebacker is enjoying his best season of his college tenure, with more sacks and tackles for loss in 2013 than he had in his prior three seasons combined with the Tigers.
But going against an offense that spreads the ball around in the passing game—Oklahoma State ranks 29th in the nation in average passing yards to go with 24 passing touchdowns—the importance of rushing the passer will be of the utmost importance for Missouri.
One promise Sam did make before the game is that he will leave it all on the line for his final game as a Tiger, according to Morrison:
Sam: "I plan on winning. You can block me, chip me, double, triple team me all night long. Leave these guys open, they'll make big plays."— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) January 1, 2014
Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State
Quarterback Clint Chelf has gotten a lot of credit for the success that Oklahoma State has enjoyed this season, and deservedly so. But Tracy Moore deserves at least a mention when talking about the Cowboys 10-win season.
The senior wide receiver has stepped up this season with 638 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Although he only had one touchdown through the first seven games of the season, he's proven to be one of Chelf's favorite targets with five touchdowns in his last five games and 75 yards or more in two of those games.
Much of Chelf's success this season has been due to the consistency of Moore. With the senior playing his last game in a Cowboys uniform, there is certainly reason to believe that Moore can have another breakout game against a weak Missouri pass defense.
Facing a defense that ranks 99th in the nation in passing yards allowed this season, Moore should have a huge game. With the Tigers also allowing over 10 yards per completion, expect Moore to be able to swing the momentum if the Cowboys are able to pull out the win.
Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
With a lot of attention being put on Dorial Green-Beckham and his breakout ability, Henry Josey has been able to flourish this season. The junior running back has shredded defenses this season with 1,074 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry.
Josey's success has led to him to being one of the top running back prospects in the 2014 NFL draft. An Instagram photo that he posted earlier this week had Mizzou fans worried that he would be leaving early, as he wrote "Last time getting to do this thang with my boys!! Lets make it a good 1."
Here is the photo:
But Josey made it clear that he will not forgo his senior season, according to Morrison:
Where am I going? I ain’t dying or anything. Of course I’ll be back. I’m not done yet.
It’s always a dream as a kid. You want to be able to get to the next level and further your career as a football player. I’ve probably thought about it a whole lotBut I can’t just sit here and say, ‘Yes, I’m leaving’ or ‘I’m staying.’ I haven’t made a decision about any of that. My main focus is on playing and having fun with my teammates.
Yes, I want to come back and yes, I want to graduate. That’s something I’ve made a promise to my grandma and a couple other people in my life. It’s a big decision. But I’m just staying in the moment right now and focusing on the football game.
With that out of the way, the Tigers will need a big game out of Josey. In his last four games, he has put together four straight performances of 95 yards rushing or more and totaled five touchdowns along the way.
However, the junior workhorse faces a stout rushing defense in Oklahoma State, which ranks 23rd in the nation against the run. The Cowboys allow just 132.9 rushing yards per game and are tied for third in the country with only eight rushing touchdowns allowed this season.
The matchup might not be in Josey's favor, but in order for Mizzou to open up the passing game, Josey's success in the running game will be crucial if the Tigers plan to pull off a huge win in the Cotton Bowl.